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Drinking Late in First Trimester May Be Most Hazardous
Date:1/17/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- It's known that drinking during pregnancy leaves babies vulnerable to a spectrum of abnormalities called fetal alcohol syndrome. Now, a new study pinpoints the latter half of the first trimester as a critical time in the development of some of the syndrome's most telling physical characteristics.

Study authors also stressed that their research illustrates there is no safe amount of drinking during pregnancy, since the amount of drinking that produced these features in infants varied from woman to woman.

"The fact that we didn't find a safe threshold is important," said study author Christina Chambers, an associate professor of pediatrics and family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. "Not every child of women who drink even very heavily has all the features, so there are certain susceptibility factors that we don't know."

The study appears online Jan. 16 ahead of print publication in the April issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. The authors say it is one of the first to examine the impact of quantity, frequency and timing of alcohol exposure on the condition.

Thought to affect about 1 percent of the American population, fetal alcohol syndrome can result in physical, behavioral and learning problems. People with the syndrome may have abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, small head size, unusually small-set eyes and shorter-than-average height.

The 992 women in the study were enrolled in the California Teratogen Information Service and Clinical Research Program between 1978 and 2005, which provided confidential risk assessments for any potential toxin exposures during pregnancy. Every three months during the remainder of their pregnancies, they were asked about their use of alcohol and other substances, in
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